US using AGOA to ‘flex its muscles’

South Africa’s poultry industry believes the US is using the renewal of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) as an opportunity to flex its muscles over SA’s current ban on chicken imports from the US.

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Online news website BDlive recently reported that a public hearing in Washington, to hear views on whether SA should continue to receive trade privileges related to AGOA despite the SA ban on US meat imports, saw SA ambassador to the US Mninwa Mahlangu come in for strong criticism from assistant US trade representative, Florie Liser.

BDlive reported that Liser was critical of the fact that the SA government did not appear to want to consider allowing any US chicken imports whatsoever despite only 20 US states currently experiencing an avian influenza outbreak. In terms of the AGOA accord, the US will be allowed to export 65 000t/annum of frozen bone-in chicken portions to SA at standard tariff rates.

CEO of the SA Poultry Association Kevin Lovell told Farmer’s Weekly that SAPA was in favour of using the more stringent compartmentalisation process for chicken imports from any country rather than the regionalisation process when outbreaks occur.

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Compartmentalisation sees acceptance of disease-safe production systems by the veterinary authorities of two countries while regionalisation allows for trade between countries during outbreaks using a less stringent level of risk security.

“We are concerned that the US government may not have made a proper case to motivate for regionalising its poultry exports to South Africa. This has nothing to do with AGOA. This is the USA using the renewal of AGOA between itself and South Africa to bring other issues into play,” said Lovell.

Lovell said that the SA government was merely concerned about the avian influenza health threat that imports of US poultry currently posed to the SA poultry industry.